UW Today

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October 8, 2009

UW receives $25 million federal grant to create Northwest Genomics Center

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) announced Oct. 1 that the UW will receive two of the six “Grand Opportunity” NHLBI Large-Scale DNA Sequencing Project awards. The multi-institutional genomics project will examine the genetic connections to heart, lung, and blood diseases that account for three of the leading causes of death in the United States.

The research is co-funded by the National Institutes of Health Director’s Office. The two-year national project, at a total funding of $64 million, was made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The UW will receive $25 million to launch the Northwest Genomics Center, one of two sequencing centers for the project. The second sequencing center will be located at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Mass.

The UW will also receive a $5.2 million grant, under the direction of Dr. Michael Bamshad, UW professor of pediatrics in the Division of Genetic Medicine, to manage the lung disease population research portion of the national project. Ohio State University, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Virginia are the other participating institutions managing cardiovascular and blood disease projects.

“This extraordinary collaboration promises to deepen our understanding of the complex interactions of genetics, the environment, and lifestyle choices, helping us bring the best science to the patients who need it most,” said NHLBI Director Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel.

The Northwest Genomics Center in Seattle will be among the first new, large-scale genomics centers focused entirely on medical sequencing to be created in the United States in more than a decade. The UW also received $2 million in funding from the state’s Life Sciences Discovery fund to support the Center’s infrastructure.

“The Northwest Genomics Center will apply cutting-edge, next generation sequencing technology to uncover the differences in our genetic code and explore how these may influence traits, such as cholesterol and blood pressure, that impact our risk for developing cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Debbie Nickerson, UW professor of genome sciences and one of the principal investigators for the new Center. Other principal investigators are Drs. Jay Shendure, Philip Green and Mark Rieder, who are also faculty members in the UW Department of Genome Sciences.

“This is an extraordinary team effort to which we all bring individual expertise,” Nickerson said. She and Rieder are leaders in medical sequencing of cardiovascular, blood and lung diseases. Shendure is one of the pioneers in the development and application of next generation sequencing technology, and Green is a world leader in developing new software tools for sequence analysis, including the tools that helped to generate the human genome sequence.

Bamshad, who will head the lung disease component of the national project, is noted for his work on common genetic variations in the United States population and how these affect individual and ethnic group differences in susceptibility to disease. The NHLBI Large-Scale DNA Sequencing Project will explore many common forms of heart, lung, and blood diseases. The ethnically diverse individuals to be studied from the large, long-term population studies have given their permission for the information from their DNA to be shared with other investigators.

For more information on the NHLBI Large-Scale DNA Sequencing Project, see http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/recovery/media/stimulus.htm.